The timing of this topic could not be have been orchestrated any better. With New Year’s Eve quickly approaching and many taking stock of their lives, mostly as a measure of their level of happiness, it is a most auspicious time to discuss what is real joy and why is it so important.
Joy is the sense of accomplishment you feel from the growth in personal victory such as overcoming a difficulty. For those who unfortunately rely on others as their benchmark they sadly may not feel joy unless someone else validates their accomplishment. This is tragic, for no one else can truly know how much of an effort this achievement was for you. Suppose You held your tongue when feeling provoked 5 times in a row, when in the past you would not have held your peace at all. To others you may seem to still be the same short-tempered person. Only you know what a heroic accomplishment you just achieved by only losing your cool the sixth time you felt provoked. Don’t let someone else take that joy away from you, you need it to motivate you to continue in your struggle. This applies to any struggle. Whether you studied 5 minutes more than you have in the past – which may not garner an “A” grade but still accomplishes self-control and more learning, or making one healthy food choice such as eating one more healthy food or avoiding one unhealthy thing – while it may not garner an immediate drop in clothing size it still is a victory of self-control which can have the added benefit of a positive impact on your general health. You are the only one who really knows what your struggles are and thus the only one qualified to pat yourself on the back.
You need to be on alert for artificial joy. Artificial joy is joy that is not based on your accomplishment. If someone managed to win the lottery because they cracked the probability code that would be an accomplishment. That has yet to happen. People who win the lottery do so through luck. This is why follow-up interviews show most lottery winners are miserable (and broke) a short while later. (On the other hand, you can find people who are broke who are quite joyous.) Another example of fake joy is when your favorite team wins the game or your favorite star wins an award. You might think you feel happy at the moment, but it is an illusion. Their winning is not an accomplishment of yours. The trap is in thinking that because you identified them as a winner and they won that you have accomplished something with your hope.
Joy is so important that it needs to be cultivated. Research shows that this can be done by focusing on thinking positive thoughts, singing a happy song or smiling at yourself in the mirror. Doing a good deed also fosters joy. It need not be big, you can put a piece of trash in the garbage, even if it is not yours, or you can give someone a smile or “hello” to brighten their day. Part of creating the joy is your ATM, the person may not smile back or may even respond in a nasty way but if you can tell yourself “I did a good thing, even if they didn’t seem to appreciate it” you will have more joy. I believe that part of the reason having a good ATM is so challenging is that from a very young age we are judged on our report cards, not for effort and successful growth, but for performance. I dream of a day when the honor of valedictorian goes to the student who shows the most growth and not the student who naturally and easily obtained straight “A”s and perhaps is even haughty about their gift.
Think about one victory that you are willing to share with your student(s) so that they can see what the joy of accomplishment truly looks like. It does not have to be something major and it does not have to be in the same area every day.
As you look back upon 2017 be honest, not just critical, I guarantee you have had some victories. Even reading this post in an effort to work on self-growth is a victory over watching another ridiculous but admittedly funny cat video (fake joy! 😉)